I always knew I wanted to be an artist. As a child it was my automatic answer every time an adult asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I was quite sure of it.
But life does funny things to even the firmest of convictions. Knowing nothing about how artists made a living, knowing no living artists I could emulate, fearing "starving" as an artist, I elected to develop my more salable scientific skills. I earned a bachelor's degree in Physics and Mathematics and eventually completed a PhD in Astrophysics. As a scientist I knew I wouldn't starve, but always I felt a sense of discontent, a restless desire to do something more creative with my life.
Eventually I was able to leave behind my financial fears and turn wholeheartedly to art. I did worry about the finality of my choice. Once you leave research science, there's no chance of return. But I needed to make the change.
I did not immediately fix on painting as my medium. Inspired by the craft artists I met at art festivals, I imagined myself likewise making beautiful objects by hand. I took classes and workshops in woodworking and leatherworking, and experimented with making jewelry. It was all fun, but nothing quite grabbed me.
On a lark, I took a landscape painting class at a local museum school. I created some truly awful paintings in that class. But I learned. I absorbed the teacher's lessons and went home and experimented further. While experimenting, just messing around really, I spontaneously started painting with dots. I like to say "the dots just happened" because it was so utterly unplanned.
As soon as I saw the dots, I knew this was an idea worth pursuing. My goal in painting was to do something different from other artists, and dots are definitely different! So I decided to take the idea and run with it.
In October 2004 I exhibited my dot paintings in public for the first time. It was a solo show in the local library. The space was so small there was room for only 6 paintings. Artist friends warned me that "art never sells at the library" so I didn't expect any sales. I put out a guestbook and hoped to start a mailing list. The afternoon of the first day of the show my phone rang. The caller anxiously asked if the painting "Yellow Field" was still available. By the end of the one-month show I had sold 13 paintings, taking each down as it sold and hanging another in its place, painting furiously to keep up with the demand. My life as a professional artist began with that show.
Since then I've happily buried myself in my art career. I exhibit regularly in art galleries, art festivals, and open studios. I've been interviewed several times for cable TV shows and newspaper articles. I've volunteered on art boards. I've worked as an assistant curator in an art gallery. And I satisfy my inner geek by designing and coding my own website (this very one). I am far happier now than I ever was as a scientist.
One of my greatest joys is exhibiting at art festivals, alongside the potters and jewelers who first inspired me to take up art. Talking to patrons about my art and hearing others' interpretations of it has greatly enriched my own understanding of my work. I am continually exploring and learning, enjoying this creative life I finally had the courage to choose.
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